Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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18 SEPT. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED LEARNING THE LOWS OF COACHING The coaches office at Saint Joseph may have been a safe haven of sorts for a teenage Weis Jr., but the hallways were often unkind, especially that fall as Notre Dame lost to Michigan 38‑0, Purdue 33‑19 and Navy 46‑44, the first time the Fighting Irish dropped a game to the Mids in 44 years. At the time, I was a senior walking those same halls. I witnessed some of my fellow classmates berate Weis Jr. for his father's losses. Those mo‑ ments stayed with me because, even as a freshman, he always seemed to keep his cool and never lashed out, no matter how much pain or anger he must have felt deep down. "You're going to be under the spot‑ light, too, especially when you're on the sidelines during Notre Dame games and stuff like that," said Reilly Jeffers, one of Weis Jr.'s best friends since high school. "People will find any reason to rip you when you're not winning. He handled it with grace, and I think it really built up his character. "It's high school, you're always go‑ ing to have assholes." In a town consumed by Fighting Irish football, "assholes" were every‑ where. They screamed at their tele‑ vision as Weis Jr. stood on the side‑ lines with his father in Notre Dame Stadium, a headset around his neck. They covered his front lawn with "for sale" signs after disappointing losses. They never cared about the pain their actions inflicted on a teenage boy who loves his father, his best friend. Through the support of family and friends, these experiences strength‑ ened Weis Jr. Even as his parents discouraged him from coaching, he knew he'd endured the worst the profession had to offer and he learned he could handle it. CLIMBING THE COACHING LADDER Weis Jr. turned 27 in April and his résumé is already filled with refer‑ ences from some of the most promi‑ nent players and coaches in football. After he was fired from Notre Dame in 2009, Weis Sr. accepted the offensive coordinator position with the Kansas City Chiefs. Weis Jr. trans‑ ferred to St. Pius X High School for his senior year. At the recommenda‑ tion of Hall of Fame running back and Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers, Weis Jr. decided to play football for the first time in his life. He dropped 60 pounds and played wide receiver. The next year, Weis Jr. enrolled at the University of Florida, where he worked under his father, the new of‑ fensive coordinator, and head coach Will Muschamp as an offensive qual‑ ity control coach. Weis Sr. was there for one season before taking the head coaching job at Kansas and Weis Jr. followed, but he had another option. "Muschamp tried to convince him to stay," Weis Sr. said. For the next three years, Weis Jr. worked with his dad as a Jayhawk undergraduate team manager, as‑ sisting a variety of position coaches and breaking down film for upcom‑ ing opponents. During that time, he also interned for the New England Patriots during training camp in the summer of 2014 and learned from offensive coordinator Josh McDan‑ iels. While exciting, the gig also came with some grunt work. "My main job for Coach [Bill] Belich‑ ick when I did my internship was to make sure that he had a Diet Coke for every staff meeting," Weis Jr. said. After graduating from Kansas with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology, he earned an interview as an offensive analyst at Alabama. His father was unaware of the opportu‑ nity until it was already in motion. Weis Jr. spent the next two seasons in Tuscaloosa. "When I was at Alabama, my main responsibility was to make the scout‑ ing reports for the opponents we were about to play," Weis Jr. said. "So Coach [Nick] Saban and Coach [Lane] Kiffin wanted a scouting re‑ port for all 12 opponents, and they wanted that in the summer. "Basically, [I'd go] through and break down a whole bunch of games for each team and create about a 20‑ 25 page scouting report and try to make a replica of the opponent's de‑ fensive playbook — what I thought it would be rolled out, based on the video evidence that I'd seen on tape." His understanding of opponent defenses gave Weis Jr. a voice in the coaches meetings and garnered him praise from the legendary Saban and Kiffin, who was the offensive coordinator. Next, he spent a year as an offen‑ sive analyst with the Atlanta Falcons and worked alongside offensive co‑ ordinator Steve Sarkisian. After the season, Kiffin — now the head coach at Florida Atlantic University — was in need of a new offensive coordi‑ nator and tabbed a then‑24‑year‑old Weis Jr. as the youngest play caller in college football. FAU struggled in 2018, going just 5‑7, but the team bounced back in 2019 by winning 11 games and finish‑ ing with the No. 13 scoring offense av‑ erage against Football Bowl Subdivi‑ sion teams with 36.4 points per game. Weis Jr. has quickly risen through the coaching ranks, going from an undergraduate manager under his dad at Kansas in 2012-14 to an offensive analyst at Alabama (2015-16) and with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons (2017), before landing his first offensive coordinator job at Florida Atlantic in 2018. PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA ATLANTIC ATHLETICS

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